India’s Modi promises red carpet, not red tape, for Japanese firms

India's prime minister pledged to ease restrictions on Japanese firms as he prepared to wrap up his five-day visit to Japan.

Powered by automated translation

TOKYO // Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is wooing Japanese businesses with a promise of “red carpet” treatment rather than the bureaucratic red tape that India is notorious for.

India is the best possible investment destination, offering “democracy, demography and demand” in its market of nearly 1.3 billion people, Mr Modi told Japanese business leaders on Tuesday.

“I have come to assure you that there is no red tape but red carpet in India. We have eased off lots of regulations,” he said.

Mr Modi will wrap up his five-day visit to Japan on Wednesday, bringing home pledges of billions of dollars in aid and investment after the two governments agreed to strengthen their economic and security ties.

Although Modi brought some of India’s billionaire business tycoons along for the visit, most of the deals signed were on the official side.

The slew of agreements signed by Mr Modi and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not include a nuclear energy pact India needs for imports of Japanese equipment to ramp up nuclear power.

During his visit, Mr Modi sidestepped questions from his audiences about China’s rising influence, emphasising instead values India shares with Japan, such as democracy.

“Fighting darkness with a sword doesn’t work,” Mr Modi said in response to a question about China at Tokyo’s University of the Sacred Heart. “An intelligent person instead can use a small lamp to chase away the darkness.”

“India and Japan are both democracies. If we work together, we can only move in a positive direction,” he said.

While China is playing an increasingly important role as India’s biggest trading partner, Mr Modi has leveraged his longtime cordial relations with Mr Abe to win commitments of financing, technology and other help in his efforts to modernise the lagging Indian economy and combat poverty.

The countries are almost polar opposites. India’s chaotic cities and its youthful population contrast starkly with Japan’s orderly society, immaculate streets and mature economy. But those differences complement each other, and Mr Abe and Mr Modi have repeatedly emphasised shared interests and values.

While in Japan, Mr Modi visited the ancient city of Kyoto, participated in a traditional tea ceremony, had an audience with Emperor Akihito, and briefly joined a taiko drum performance at the launch of a training school established by India’s Tata Consultancy Services.

In an address at a Tokyo hotel, Mr Modi promised Japanese businesses that his three-month-old government, which plans to set up an investment promotion team, would guarantee smooth sailing.

He lauded agreements on selling defence-related equipment and cooperating in natural gas trading, solar energy and infrastructure projects including smart cities, high-speed railways, subways, airports and highways.

“India has a ‘Look East’ policy, and it seems Japan has a ‘Look at India’ policy,” he said.

* Associated Press